The issues of race and equality have been tentative for American society and politics for a long time since the American Civil War, throughout the years of the abolitionist movement, and to the present. The ideas of prominent activists and influencers drove the process of African Americans’ liberation. Booker T Washington and W. E. B. DuBois were the figures that addressed African Americans’ rights at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. This paper compares their views and asserts that despite their similarities in terms of the importance of racism elimination and educational advancement, the thinkers’ ideas differed concerning activism, immediate results, and segregation.
Similarities between Washington’s and DuBois’s Arguments
The most considerable similarity between these two thinkers’ arguments was that they both envisioned their ultimate goal as the liberation of the Black community and providing it with more freedoms and rights. At the early stages of Washington’s and DuBois’s publications and speeches concerning the rights of the Black community, the two thinkers liked each other’s views. In particular, when DuBois heard Washington’s speech on the importance of African American liberation, he admitted that those considerations were sound and appealing (“Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois” 00:04:00-00:04:27). They were both active proponents of civil rights enforcement and more educational and occupational opportunities for previously enslaved and currently discriminated against African Americans.
Differences between Washington’s and DuBois’s Arguments
Despite the similarity of goals, the approaches to achieving those goals differed significantly. Washington’s views on education, occupation, and race might be characterized as accommodationist where no immediate action or active participation was encouraged (Lo 427). Washington advocated for segregation while maintaining equality of rights, and promoted steady change with time-consuming methods. Also, he claimed that African Americans must achieve economic independence and civil rights after years of social and political processes that would unfold without the Black community’s influence.
DuBois, on the contrary, prioritized a radically different approach while actively criticizing Washington for his accommodationism. He claimed that African Americans would liberate only through strikes and active inclusion into the political sphere. DuBois rejected the idea of segregation and encouraged people to fight for equal rights for all Americans regardless of race (Deivasigamani 226-227). Also, Du Bois sought collaboration between the White and Black populations in pursuit of equal rights, while Washington was claimed to “shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro’s shoulders and stand aside” (Deivasigamani 226). These differences in approaches were the main reason why Washington and DuBois were opponents.
Washington’s and DuBois’s Anticipated Response to Black Lives Matter
Given vast discrepancies in Washington’s and DuBois’s arguments concerning racial equality achievement, their reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement would be different. In particular, Washington would not have supported active measures and protests due to his pacifistic approach. However, DuBois would have been an advocate for the movement’s advancement. Moreover, his ideas are now being implemented as the basis for the movement’s agenda, where the “fierce urgency of now” is the stepping stone of calling for action (Mullen par. 5). Therefore, Washington would have opposed Black Lives Matter while DuBois would have been an activist and influencer.
In summation, the discussion of civil rights and racial equality was a pivotal issue on the verge of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and remains relevant until now. Two prominent thinkers of the time, Washington and DuBois, shared the same vision of the Black community’s liberation through equality. However, the difference in choosing the means through which that goal might be achieved caused their overall disagreement.
Deivasigamani, T. “WEB Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk: Freedom, Equality and Racial Discrimination.” Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow, vol. 19, no. 10, 2019, pp. 224-231.
Lo, Marie. “Handcrafting Whiteness: Booker T. Washington and the Subject of Contemporary Craft.” ASAP/Journal, vol. 5, no. 2, 2020, pp. 423-449.
Mullen, Bill. “W.E.B. DuBois and Black Lives Matter.” Pluto Book, 2016.
“Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois.” PBS, 2020.